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'I'm back to work and taking the kids out' | Charlotte woman shares her experience with double hip replacement surgery after gaining her life back

47 year old woman tried numerous treatments and even back surgery before learning underlying cause of debilitating pain

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte woman is back on her feet after two years of relying on a walker or cane to get around. Tonya Johnson-Oni, who is 47 years old said her ordeal started with leg pain. She said she was ready to give up on taking part in activities with her kids and grandchildren.

"One of my doctors told me it was sciatica and I started going to physical therapy, and that didn't work," Johnson-Oni remembered. "Then, I started going to a neurosurgeon, and I had back surgery. That didn't work. Then my pain management doctor had me go and take X-rays of my hip and that's when I was told that my hip was necrotic and that I had to have hip surgery."

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Johnson-Oni was referred to Atrium Health and met Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Kevin Weiss, who had his own health scare when he had bone cancer in his right leg. 

"My life's come full circle now because I'm taking care of patients who have similar, unnecessarily similar diagnosis, but similar problems in their lives, where they can't do the things that they wanted to do before," Dr. Weiss said.

Most patients of Weiss are over 50 years old.  

"What can happen with younger patients is a process that's called avascular necrosis, which is the loss of the blood supply to the hip joint," he explained.
"That can happen for a multitude of reasons. There isn't one specific thing that causes it."

Because the pain can be debilitating, Weiss, who specializes in hip and knee replacement surgery, said many times people get depressed and feel hopeless. However, advancements in techniques are making it possible to recover quicker for the right patient.

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"We actually did a posterior hip surgery for her, not any anterior hip replacement surgery," Weiss described. "But [for] both, I do minimally invasive, small incision, rapid recovery. I try to get people up and moving very quickly." He said they didn't have to tear into Johnson-Oni's muscles and soft tissue in either hip. 

Johnson-Oni didn't have to stay the night in the hospital either time. 

"They were both outpatient and followed by physical therapy, followed by me getting rid of my walker and my cane, just like he promised," Johnson-Oni said. 

After two years of relying on the walker, during her recovery, Johnson-Oni admitted she wouldn't go outside without it, afraid she might fall. After she realized she was able to go up the stairs without an aid, she decided it was time to put it up forever. 

"I promised my grandson I was gonna race him down the hallway," she said. "That's when I really knew, when I ran down the hallway that I don't need that."

Weiss said he and his partner, Dr. Duffin, are quickly building their orthopedic services at Atrium Health's Musculoskeletal Institute

"We specialize in minimally invasive surgery, anterior hip replacement surgery," he said. "Again, muscle-sparing approaches to the hip, rapid recovery, immediate discharge from the hospital in patients who are candidates for that, like Tonya."

He said their program is a comprehensive one, from a home health standpoint to physical therapy. 

"We're using all the cutting-edge implant designs that are out there," he said. "We're using a multi-multidisciplinary approach to hip and knee replacement surgery. And that's really how we're able to do what we do so efficiently and so effectively."

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